As a child, I had to endure many long trips in the family station wagon. Commercial air travel was in its infancy; and with gas being extremely cheap, long trips by car were how most people got to grandma's or to a vacation spot. As a teenager with two little brothers, there was not a lot to keep you interested. You could only torture little brother for so long before your life became endangered by parents pushed to the limit. All the stupid "count the license plates" games my mother could invent became old stuff. What did provide some relief was looking out the window at passing objects and imagining how the things I saw really lived.
We drove by a large lake, and I imagined the large fish that must live there and what it would be like to catch one. We went by a hawk circling the highway, and I dreamed of what it would be like to fly. We passed a horse running in a field, and I wondered what it would be like to ride him. We passed a pretty girl walking along the road, and I dreamed about her being as nice as she looked.
One evening we were driving through Georgia, and I had my camera lying in my lap. I had just had an argument of major proportions with my parents and sat pouting contemplating the long all-night drive I was about to endure. I was feeling pretty sorry for myself--cooped up in an ugly station wagon with two irritating little brothers and two parents who had no sympathy for my feelings of isolation. As I looked out the window, I saw the silhouette of our car on a Georgia red clay bank at the edge of the highway. It reminded me of how much I wanted my own car and what it would be like to drive to the ends of the earth. I picked up my camera and managed to guess the settings and shoot the picture that is on the cover of this issue of our journal.
Earlier this year, I was presenting a slide show to my class of physics students at the public high school where I teach. Included in the series was this picture. I explained what it took to take the picture and left it on the screen for a minute for my students to examine. As they did so, I thought about how frustrated I had been that day. My thinking was interrupted by a young lady who said, "When did you take that picture?" "In 1952," I said, "when I was 14 years old." "You mean you went with your parents somewhere when you were 14," she said. "Yes--we were coming home from a vacation," I replied. "It was an awful trip and I was bored so I took the picture." "Wow," she said. "You had your mom and dad together when you were 14 and went on a vacation together. I don't ever remember my family being together and my folks split before I was five."
What I remembered years later were my personal frustrations and perceived needs as a teenager. All I could think of was driving away from that which did not meet my needs as I imagined them. All of that was a shadow of my real needs. Having Mom and Dad together, having a family that cared enough to do things together, and knowing there was always someone behind me to pick me up if I fell--these were the things of immeasurable value and the things I really needed.
In today's world, we have many people who fail to appreciate what they have; but we also have people who feel no need for God. Like me as a teenager, their only focus is their immediate gratification of whatever needs they perceive themselves to have. God does not provide in a direct way their new car, their sexual gratification, or their popularity--so they have no need for God. All of this is a shadow of reality. Ultimately, life will bring reality. The money will not satisfy, the sex will fade and become trivialized, and real self-worth and the reality of disease, pain, and death will crash in, so the realization of our need for the Lord becomes clear.
Growing up is more than reaching 21 or reaching sexual maturity. It involves maturing beyond self and into the realization that God does matter--the ultimate reality.
--John N. Clayton
Back to Contents Does God Exist?, Mar/Apr98.